Dear Dr. Ascol,
I was surprised, in more ways than one, to happen upon the Founders Journal Online page recently and read your article on Kirby Godsey for the winter 1997 issue of your publication. As a Baptist, a senior (and very soon to be alumnus) of an excellent Presbyterian liberal-arts college, and a person generally interested in debate and discussion on important issues in Christianity, I am, from time to time, inclined to scrutinize views very radically different from my own. Of course, the views espoused in your article and your publication can well be described in the aforementioned manner.
However, I am quite impressed by both your civility and your honesty and sincerity; I am not used to experiencing such qualities in the fundamentalists with whom I have discussions. I also appreciate your scholarly tone.
However, I still feel I must respond to this article in particular. I don’t want this to take on the guise of a righteous polemic, but I do disagree with the arguments you use to indict Dr. Godsey. Here’s why:
1.) You lament the fact that “evangelicals” (whoever they are; no two Christians seem to be able to define this much-bandied-about term the same way) no longer worry too much about heresies. Well, I don’t know where you’ve been since 1979, but there are plenty of “heresies” nowadays in the Southern Baptist Convention, and defending any of them (or merely defending any fellow Baptist’s rights to defend any of them) can–and usually does–get you fired. Women’s ordination, the Religious Right, the priesthood of all believers, local church autonomy and democratic rule–if you don’t hold to a certain orthodox viewpoint on all of these issues, you are considered a heretic by the new regime. Please go tell Dan Martin, Al Shackleford, Molly Marshall, and Russell Dilday that no one cares about “heresies” any more in the Southern Baptist Convention. They may find cause to disagree with you….
2) You suggest that, if Dr. Godsey had read the work of certain unnamed Puritan theologians, that he may better be able to understand the proper balance of devotion and theology in the Christian life. Well, I don’t know about you Founders folks, but a theology and devotion that lead one to burn innocent women accused of witchcraft, massacre thousands of Native Americans in a religiously-motivated campaign of genocide, and banish fellow Christian leaders for speaking the truth is NOT the kind of theology of faith and practice that I want to use as my model. I prefer the one that Jesus Christ preaches, thank you very much. But not many people who call themselves Christians these days seem to be following that model. If only Roger Williams could speak to us now. But, I know that people in your camp don’t like to talk that much about the man to whom we owe our entire Baptist heritage in this country….
3) You suggest that Dr. Godsey, a man of more impeccable Southern Baptist credentials than any Al Mohler, Jerry Falwell, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon, is nothing but a “neo-Baptist.” Now, I may just be a bit presumptuous to ask this of a man much better educated than myself, but you beg the question: who in the world are you to define who is and who is not a Baptist? The very idea is the most un-Baptist thing I’ve ever heard of! I won’t dare deny Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, or even Pat Robertson the right to call themselves Baptists, even though they espouse many a belief that seems to run contrary to the very core of Baptist principles and distinctives. However, I know that calling yourself a Southern Baptist, yet acting in markedly un-Baptist ways, is very much in vogue right now in the late, great Southern Baptist Convention.
Grace and Peace from our Lord Jesus Christ,
R.M., Memphis, TN, via e-mail.
P.S.–Please feel free to print this in the letters to the editor section of your next issue. I would be thrilled to entertain any responses to this message by any interested parties, as I feel the Lord teaches me the most by placing me in controversy–“baptizing by fire,” if you will. As I said, I am singularly impressed with what I have seen of you and your publication.
Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to offer your point of view to us. Regarding the numbered concerns which you raised: 1) I do not recall any of the people whom you named being charged with heresy, although it may have been appropriate in one of those cases. I used the term very carefully to refer to matters of faith that relate to the core issues of salvation. One might be a Christian (albeit a misguided one) and reject the inerrancy of Scripture. One may not, however, be a Christian and reject the deity of Christ. 2) The Puritans are more often vilified than read. As I have mentioned to you previously, I will be happy to give you a book which will introduce you to Puritan devotional theology. Simply let me know of your willingness to read it. In addition, I was referring primarily to the English Puritans. Roger Williams, by the way, was a Calvinist. 3) Concerning Southern Baptist credentials, you are two-thirds right (only because Spurgeon is dead and Falwell is Independent Baptist). Historically it has been recognized that one must be an orthodox Christian if one is to be a genuine Baptist. The modern tendency to claim otherwise (ie. that the wedding of Baptist distinctives to unorthodox views constitutes a legitimate Baptist) is nothing more than Landmarkism of the Left.
Thank you for this great publication!
I am enjoying the Founders Journal so much! Each issue is filled with material that is so-o-o-o good! I’m 66 years old and I can remember my dear sweet father preaching some of these truths. I call them the “Biblical Doctrines of Paul” rather than Calvinism.
Anyway, keep up the good work and with much prayer maybe our young preachers will get a good start!
Love in Christ,
Miss R.R., Dallas, TX
I just like to say thank you for putting the Founders Journal publication online. This is helpful to us.
About myself, I was introduced [to] the Bible in the Southern Baptist church about 18 years ago. Last year I pastor[ed] a Southern Baptist church but this [was] only for a year for some reasons. Here in H[ong K[ong] the doctrines of grace among the Southern Baptist churches and also among Christians in general is [considered] a strange doctrine. Some consider it in fact to be a false teaching. Presently I am laboring here to establish a church, a Baptist one, English speaking, and adherent in the doctrines of grace, by the enablement of God.
Thank you and I hope to make some visit[s] [to] your site again. I made this visit using an “internet cafe” computer in H[ong] K[ong], so please ignore the source of this E-mail if another name than mine appears.
Yours in Christ,
R.V., Hong Kong, via e-mail.
I deeply appreciate the Founders Journal and its commitment to returning Southern Baptists to their historical theological roots. I have enclosed [a gift] to help with your ministry. Within the last couple of years, the Lord has given me a small degree of boldness to proclaim the doctrines of grace. I am beginning to sense what I am sure many of you dear brethren know all too well–that although the doctrines of grace are precious to us, they are hated and despised by others. I ask that you please pray for me. I have not experienced any open hostility, but I often feel faint. The Arminianism that we see both in and outside of the Southern Baptist Convention seems almost like a taunting Goliath that threatens to devour anyone who dares to challenge it. There is comfort, however, in knowing that, unlike David who had to fight alone, you brothers are out there. May the Lord bless and multiply your ministry.
T. H., Mississippi